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Perfect people by Peter James – a review

Last week was  a bit of a religious week for me. Firstly I had a trip to see the excellent York Mystery Plays. If you’d asked me previously if I wanted to spend three hours sat outside watching bible stories I’d have run a mile, but they were fantastic. It was a bit like a live ‘Where’s wally’ trying to spot where the Devil (aka John Stape) woud appear next.

If that wasn’t enough religion, I then read Perfect People by Peter James.

This is a stand alone novel rather than part of his Roy Grace series. Parent’s John and Naomi lost their first child to a genetic defect, so they go on a specialist cruise where they can pick the entire genetic make up of their child from its level of empathy through to eye colour – a so called ‘designer baby’. Obviously things don’t work out as planned and the story evolves into a mess of secret islands and religious nutters.

This was a slightly uncomfortable read I thought, regardless of a persons views on messing with Mother Nature. It was made all the more so when you realise that despite the extreme version portrayed in the novel the idea of a designer baby is not that far off.

Saying that it was quite a good book, the story was interesting, and putting the moral discussion to one side you felt that John and Naomi whilst rather naive were genuinely doing what they did for the best of intentions. Who wouldn’t want to try and make life easier for their children no matter what the cost?

The story was a bit far fetched, and the idea that anyone would pay a fortune to go on a baby making cruise seems pretty ridiculous to me but the story went along at a fast pace, and kept me guessing to the end. I felt this wasn’t as good as some of his Roy Grace novels, but certainly worth spending a wet afternoon on!

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August 21, 2012 · 6:58 pm

Nothing to fear

As an avid reader who travels by trains a lot the purchase of a kindle was obviously a no-brainer (especially thanks to a generous donation by my Gran!) The idea of being able to have thousands of books all on something the size of an average paperback is to me pretty amazing.

I should say at this point that I am not a gadget person. I don’t get excited by new phones, or flashy IPads, and my perfectly functional computer is about 10 years old. Gadgets to me are similar to assembling flat pack furniture, something I leave to my sister. However the kindle is a different matter. It doesn’t flash, sing or dance, it looks like a book, acts like a book, in fact it is just a book but better.

Now don’t get me wrong, they are not perfect. For a start it is way too easy to buy books on them. All you have to do is click a few buttons and you have the whole of Amazon at your fingertips – for someone like me who has a real fear of running out of things to read this is dangerous. (I wander if there is a term for that, nobookaphobia maybe?)

I still love real books, and personally despite predictions I don’t think the printed word will ever be completely taken over by kindle. At home I would still rather read a real book. I love browsing in bookshops, and can easily spend hours wandering round Waterstones. There is something satisfying about seeing a row of books lined up waiting to be picked that will never be replaced by a simple list in a kindle. At home I have shelves of books in my house and am always slightly disappointed that when I read a book on a kindle it won’t get added to those shelves.

You can’t share Kindle books with others either. I enjoy swopping books with friends, if I’ve really enjoyed a book I like to be able to pass it on to someone else and say read this. Telling someone that you’ve just read a great book on a kindle is not the same. I think people are less likely to read a book if they have to write down the title, look it up on amazon and then buy it themselves. Many a time I’ve been given books by someone that I would never in a million years have actually bought myself, no matter how good someone told me it was. The Twilight books are a good example, I was given the first one by a friend so I read and really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would though so if she hadn’t put that physical copy in my hand I would probably have never actually read it.

Another thing that is a shame with a kindle is that you have no idea what other people are reading. On a train or in a bar I think its interesting to see what people are reading and I think there is no better advertising than having your book read by a load of people sat on a train. Of course the fact that no one knows what you are reading can be a good thing sometimes. As an event organiser I spend a large amount of my time out of the office, so with a kindle in my hand I could be reading important work related documents. Then again…

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May 15, 2012 · 5:25 pm

61 hours

The programme for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate has been released. Whilst it doesn’t seem to have the ‘big hitters’ of last year’s festival such as Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritsen, the actual programme looks very exciting and features more ‘home grown’ talent.

The festival opens with the award for the Crime Novel of the Year. Last year’s winner was Lee Child. The shortlist hasn’t yet been released as far as I can see but I might make reading the books on it my mini-challenge within a challenge.

One session I’m most looking forward to is called ‘Deadlier than the Male’. This includes Jilliane Hoffman and Tania Carver (a man called Martin who writes with his wife, neither are actually called Tania) discussing whether women write the most graphic violence. In my completely non-scientific and non-proven opinion I do think there is a difference in the portrayal of crime between men and women writers. I think the men tend to write more physically violent descriptions with fights and punch ups, whereas I think women are often more psychologically mindedwith their descriptions of torture and fear for example Chelsea Cain springs to mind. It will therefore be interesting to hear this point debated by those who actually right it.

The session titled ‘America’s got talent’ is looking good as I have just read Gillian Flynn which was fantastic, review coming soon for her book, recently read on a trip up to Edinburgh (where for those who read my previous post, the delay on the train this time was due to a slow running train)

There is also a special event called Luther, looking behind the scenes at the TV series of the same name. As a big fan of the tv programme I’m looking forward to hearing writer Neil Cross talk. His books are definitely on my to read list and with any luck the rather handsome Idris Elba might make a surprise guest appearance too!

Sunday morning (a later start after the murder mystery dinner on Saturday night with Anne Cleaves creator of Vera) begins with ‘50 different words for murder’ with Deon Myer and Camilla Lackberg discussing the art of translation in crime novels. The final session of the festival is Jo Nesbo talking to Mark Lawson.

It’s a pretty full programme over the just under 3 days with a late night appearance on Saturday by Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson. I haven’t yet read any Ian Rankin but I’m in Scotland for a few days soon so going to save it for that. There is also a quiz on the Saturday night with quiz masters Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Unfortunately I am not great at quizzes as they involve remembering things, I do have quite neat handwriting though so hopefully me and the sister can join someone elses team and I can always offer to be the scribe!

My new aim for this challenge, in case I don’t complete the whole thing is to try and read at least one author from each session. I will give ‘Crime in another Dimension’ a miss though as Science Fiction is not really for me, sounds like a good time for a trip to Bettys and a bit of shopping in Harrogate.


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April 25, 2012 · 5:31 pm

Strangers on a train

Yesterday East Coast Trains (well the people that run the company rather than the trains themselves) launched the first ever Twitter crime story. The author Martin Waites ‘tweeted’ the first line. Followers can then ‘tweet’ what they think would be a good next line. East Coast will then publish this -sorry ‘tweet’ it and so on and so on.

Putting aside the fact that grown adults talking about ‘tweeting’ is frankly ludicrous and I always have visions of lots of people doing the birdie song actions to each other. Whilst I think it is great fun trying to come up with the next tweet and is no doubt a great marketing ploy I’m not sure it’s actually going to produce a story I’d read. Wasn’t there some kind of game played when we were children whereby you wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it over and then the next person wrote something else? I can’t remember what the point or the prize was though, but I’m sure it was similar.

To me in order to really enjoy a book you have to sit down and read the first few chapters all in one go in order to ‘get into it’. Reading requires time and dedication to enjoy properly. It’s no good just buying lots of books and having them sit and look pretty on your bookshelves. Often those who have the nicest sets of books, in the most pristine condition are those who don’t actually enjoy reading them.

There is a man who comes into my gym, he turns up wearing professional looking speedos, tinted goggles, he stretches before he gets in the pool, all ready for a good old workout. He then swims so slowly that from a distance he barely moves, and does two lengths (of a pool the size of a walnut) before getting out. It doesn’t matter how professional you look, if you don’t put any effort in you won’t get any reward.

I think the same goes for reading. Often the best books are those that take a bit of work to get into, a good example being the previously mention CJ Samson.  Sometimes you have to sit down without any distractions to start off a book, on a train for example. You can sit down for a couple of hours with nothing else to do, and really get into the story. Until of course some kid gets on with his MP3 blaring, then the self-important idiot behind starts loudly making phone calls to tell everyone how important he is, then the tannoy person starts shouting about how they want to apologise for the delay due to leaves on the line/signalling problems in Peterborough/missing driver (delete as appropriate)

Despite that trains are a perfect place to read, as are hotel bars. You may have to put in the effort to ignore all the distractions around but just occasionally you find a quiet train that’s not delayed and you can really enjoy a good book.

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April 20, 2012 · 4:20 pm